By Daniel Fell

Artificial Intelligence (or AI) is revolutionizing almost every industry and area of life today, and it is routinely showing up in everything from automobiles to refrigerators. One of the fields most dramatically being impacted by AI, and machine learing in specific, is marketing.

From how we segment and target customers to how we purchase and manage digital media platforms to how we engage with customers and deliver products and services, AI is having a transformational impact how marketing and communications professionals perform their roles.

Daniel Fell

In fact, how we have practiced marketing for decades will fundamentally change with this new technology.

While  marketers don’t necessarily need to know all of the technical aspects of machine learning and neural networks, they do need to understand how these tools are rapidly expanding from innovation to widespread use.  Those who embrace these changes and who have a fundamental understanding of these tools will emerge as the next generation of industry leaders and influencers.

Simply put, AI is redefining everything we do to build brands and attract and retain customers. Take programmatic media buying for instance. Over half of all digital advertising is programmatic where computers make decisions about who sees what digital ads in fractions of a second as pages load on a desktop browser or mobile app. In this new world, advertisers compete in a virtual, real-time computer driven auction to have their pre-loaded ads placed in front of targeted consumers.

An area of AI in which I particularly focus is predictive analytics. Computers have the unique ability to process millions of bits of information to identify – or “learn” if you want to apply a human-like term ­– new things about a given set of data. They’re also highly adept at finding insights and recognizing patterns. In healthcare, for example, this could mean taking hundreds of millions of health records and data files and building highly accurate predictive models of what healthcare conditions an individual consumer might develop. With that information in hand, marketers can be highly targeted in focusing their activities at a group of consumers who are more likely to have a specific health condition like heart disease or orthopedic problems.

One area with which many marketers are already familiar is the use of AI in algorithms that drive everything from Google search results to social media posts and engagements.  AI is also growing in consumer facing programs like chat-bots and intelligent knowledge platforms that in many cases become the customer-facing interfaces that drive customer journeys and customer experiences.

If all of this is somewhat daunting to wrap our arms around, a good starting point is to remove all of the hype and simply think about where your organization is currently using AI and machine learning technology. If you’re into cars you might want to understand the AI behind Tesla or if you’re a sports fan you might want to understand how data and analytics are used to predict how sports teams or individual athletes will perform.  Many of the principles of machine learning and algorithms apply across industries.

While the future of marketing is far from being totally automated – marketers still bring invaluable skills such as reasoning, intuition, creativity, ethics and morality to our work that computers may never adequately replace – the tools we use and way we perform our jobs is changing.  AI is a leading factor in this change.

Daniel Fell is Senior Strategist at Optum and has over thirty years of healthcare marketing, strategy and advertising experience. He is the author of The Marketer‘s Guide to Market Research and numerous articles on digital marketing, marketing technology and marketing analytics. He and his family live in Signal Mountain, TN.